Skip to main content

I keep trying to get saved

By Matthew ~

When I was young I was very inquisitive. I gravitated towards music, astronomy, and math. I always wanted to know how things worked, and I would spend hours taking apart toy trains, playing with Legos, and wondering how in the world a car worked. I wanted to be a mechanic or an astronaut. The world was ablaze with beauty and structure and I had to know how it all worked.

I was also enthralled with the idea of heaven. My first memories are learning about Jesus coming back to take us back to heaven to live with him forever. I was told I would be able to fly and play with wild animals in heaven. Sometimes I would go outside and watch for Jesus, trying to spot the cloud that was carrying him back to this earth to save us.

As I grew up and began to "understand" the whole process of salvation, I learned that one had to be saved in order to go to heaven. I realize now that I approached salvation with the same curiosity I approached astronomy and mechanics: I had to know how it all worked. I wanted to know at what point I was saved or unsaved, how the holy spirit filled me up, and how to avoid slipping into sin. Pretty deep stuff for a ten year old, really. The whole fascination was about heaven. Heaven would be a glorious place, and I was going to be there.

At some point I decided I needed to "know" that I was saved. I needed a marker of sorts, a true/false test that I could point to in order to know I was getting to heaven. It was my inquisitive side, I think, that longed for evidence, just like a scientist. At this point it became less about heaven, though, and started to be more about hell. I could imagine hell just as vivid as I could imagine heaven, and it wasn't pretty. I don't think I need to elaborate on how awful hell could be. The worst part for me wasn't the flames, it was the idea that I would be separated from my friends and family forever.

I wanted to know at what point I was saved or unsaved, how the holy spirit filled me up, and how to avoid slipping into sin.I eventually did come up with a test. With the help of a charismatic preacher, I decided I could know I was saved if I was happy. Not just happy, but joyful, ecstatic, peaceful, all the time. ALL THE TIME. And the more I grew in Christ, the more happy I would be.

It didn't take long for me to sense some negative emotions. I decided I must have gotten unsaved during the day. I would try to pray them away at night, but the uncertainty would lead to angst, which would lead to fear, and then I'd be unsaved again. It didn't take long for me to spiral into a full panic attack. The first few times my mother heard them and could re-assure me. After that I figured out how to keep them quiet.

For two years, from ages 11 to 13 I suffered panic attacks at night thinking that I wasn't saved. I would roll about, toss and turn, and claw at my chest. At 13 I decided to stop trying and just be unsaved. My high school years didn't have the panic attacks but I learned to be very ashamed of who I was. I also knew that Jesus could return at any moment and leave me to burn.

I tried to get saved in college. Sometimes I would devote an entire weekend to getting saved, spending time in nature to finally figure it out. The panic attacks continued. Eventually I did manage to convince myself that I was saved. I used the same test as a child. I had to be happy. But this time I focused less on being happy and more on avoiding negative emotions, which I interpreted as Satan and demons. By keeping out those bad feelings I was keeping out Satan. It was a real psychological feat, but my twenties were characterized with avoiding and repressing all negative emotions. Sometimes it took a lot of work, like switching careers, moving back home, or avoiding all risks. I moved across the US 3 times, gave up job opportunities and careers, avoiding anything that might make me feel unsettled. And all the while I thought God was leading me and that I was getting closer to him.

Finally at age 28 I stopped believing in God. It was like a bomb went off in my brain. Every repressed emotion came rushing in like a tidal wave, and I didn't know how to take it. I've spent the last two years even as an unbeliever trying to avoid those emotions as well. I just keep trying to get saved. The panic attacks came back with a vengeance. My first therapist suggested I find a church. My second told me atheism was arrogant. I keep looking for mental health care that is appropriate for what I now consider to be abuse, but am still looking. I went for 17 years avoiding and repressing emotions. Learning to live with them is not easy.

Imagine a child growing up without believing in heaven or hell? Imagine not having make sure you're saved all the time? This is the world I am trying to give my son. While I am not a perfect parent, I am hoping to help my son experience the joy, peace, and yes, even the pain and grief of this present world. I want him to have a fully human experience. There is so much richness and beauty (and yes, danger) in the world around us, we don't need to come up with a glorious or tortuous afterlife to inspire or scare us. There's enough joy and pain in this present world.

I guess in a weird way I finally feel like I am saved. Not from hell, but from Christianity. And although I still suffer, and am still struggling to interpret my emotions, I am growing as a human, learning to experience the beauty of everything around me, and I no longer fear a literal hell. If there is one thing I would tell a Christian it would be this: There is no such thing as being "unsaved." You are full and complete in your humanity. Learn from your mistakes and live for today. This life is the best we've got, and you don't need the promise of an afterlife to experience meaning or joy.


Popular posts from this blog

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

On Living Virtuously

By Webmdave ~  A s a Christian, living virtuously meant living in a manner that pleased God. Pleasing god (or living virtuously) was explained as: Praying for forgiveness for sins  Accepting Christ as Savior  Frequently reading the Bible  Memorizing Bible verses Being baptized (subject to church rules)  Attending church services  Partaking of the Lord’s Supper  Tithing  Resisting temptations to lie, steal, smoke, drink, party, have lustful thoughts, have sex (outside of marriage) masturbate, etc.  Boldly sharing the Gospel of Salvation with unbelievers The list of virtuous values and expectations grew over time. Once the initial foundational values were safely under the belt, “more virtues'' were introduced. Newer introductions included (among others) harsh condemnation of “worldly” music, homosexuality and abortion Eventually the list of values grew ponderous, and these ideals were not just personal for us Christians. These virtues were used to condemn and disrespect fro

I can fix ignorance; I can't fix stupid!

By Bob O ~ I 'm an atheist and a 52-year veteran of public education. I need not tell anyone the problems associated with having to "duck" the "Which church do you belong to?" with my students and their parents. Once told by a parent that they would rather have a queer for their sons' teacher than an atheist! Spent HOURS going to the restroom right when prayers were performed: before assemblies, sports banquets, "Christmas Programs", awards assemblies, etc... Told everyone that I had a bladder problem. And "yes" it was a copout to many of you, but the old adage (yes, it's religious) accept what you can't change, change that which you can and accept the strength to know the difference! No need arguing that which you will never change. Enough of that. What I'd like to impart is my simple family chemistry. My wife is a Baptist - raised in a Baptist Orphanage (whole stories there) and is a believer. She did not know my religi